Tearing his eyes away from the doorway Drew looked around. They had entered the building into an atrium, a broken Navy Federal ATM had been jammed into the hallway along with a number of other objects creating a barricade into an area that was labeled as a chow hall.

Pressing against the wall, to prevent Chesty, the massive bulldog, from seeing them if it opted to come down the road. Another hallway had been similarly blocked, but Drew could see half a dozen marines in the stairwell leading up. All of them were holding fingers to their lips and holding a hand out in the universal, 'hold there' gesture.

Since they could do little else Drew studied the room. It was littered with debris, thick red-brown and blue-black bloodstains covered just about every surface. Everywhere he looked he saw signs of fighting. The smell was horrendous, however there weren't any visible remains in the space. The marines looked to be worse for wear, not a single one of them didn't have some sort of bandage or visible wound. Each of them held what looked like Marine NCO swords or a rifle with a fixed bayonet. Drew could see crayons peeking out of each of their pockets, held in positions where they could be easily grabbed.

Drew turned his mana sight on to look around the room. The node for the Barracks was to the north, although it did seem to extend to this location, the pyramid would be that way.

"What on earth is going on here?" Drew muttered under his breath while they waited for Chesty to head off. Several tense minutes went by and eventually a call came from deeper in the atrium and one of the Marines stepped forward, he walked across the room in a strange pattern avoiding odd locations as he zigzagged towards them. When he was a few feet away he looked around.

"Welcome to the Marine Barracks, I'm Corporal Clark. I'll escort you past the traps." With that he turned around and walked carefully back the way he came. Drew gestured for everyone else go to first, as he kept an eye on the entrance. "Step exactly where I step if you will." Clark said as Luke followed. The snaking nature of the trip made it take a few seconds before Luke was across, the rest of the group was still traversing the field when Drew blink stepped over to the stairs, surprising two of the Marines who pointed their bayonets at him, while a third pointed a crayon at him.

"Easy, it's just me." Drew said, holding his hands up. The Marine glanced between Drew and the illusion that he had left behind at the front of the room twice before the illusion disappeared.

Moving quietly Clark guided them up the stairs. The next level was equally empty, barricades preventing the door from opening. Drew could see the nerves on Clark fade slightly as they climbed up to the third floor. The corporal leading them down a hallway lined with doors and into what looked like a Rec Room. Marines in various states of injured lay around the room. Several others walking around the group changing bandages or feeding them.

"Gunny, we have guests." Clark said, the gunnery sergeant turned to look at them, his eyes quickly studying their armor and uniforms, he paused when he saw the pinned silver bar on Drew's collar. Drew had never taken off the LTJG rank insignia that Snyder had given him. Seeing the rank the man saluted.

"Good afternoon Lieutenant. I'm Gunnery Sergeant Daniels." He said.

Drew awkwardly returned the salute. "Uh...thanks sergeant." He said awkwardly, unused to being saluted. "Sarah, Luke, see if you can help any of those men." He said pointing to the injured soldiers. "Gunny, I'm going to cast a spell that will help them heal up."

The Gunny frowned at Drew, "I'd rather you not just yet Lieutenant. Mind telling me who you are and how you got here?" He held up a hand to stop Sarah and Luke from getting past him.

"Lieutenant Junior Grade Michilak, USCG. I have Ensign Rothschild, OS1 Sabin here with me." Drew said pointing at Sarah and Katie. "Officer White of the FPD..." Drew paused looking around for Daryl, "Mr. Daryl Swaze is around here somewhere and is our scout and this is... Luke." Drew frowned looking at the Seraph, "What is your last name?"

"I do not have one." Luke answered as he studied the injured men and women around the room.

"Anyway, we're here to rescue you. Luke and the ensign both have healing xatherite, if you'll let them get to work we'll get you evacuated in no time."

The gunny looked Drew up and down, "You're a bit old for a JG."

"Yeah, I got a field promotion a week ago, before that I was an IT2."

"Who the hell gave an IT2 a field promotion?"

"Senator Gunn of Arizona. He's the highest elected official still alive that we know of. Can I get a sitrep?"

"Yes sir. We've got just shy of 150 marines still alive, more than half of them are too injured to be moved. There is myself, Staff Sergeant Goodrich and a couple of sergeants for NCOs. Goodrich has a nasty gut wound though. Captain Ellison led a group north shortly after everything went FUBAR. Mostly the off duty president's guards, but they never came back. We made do with what small arms we had left for a few days, but ammo ran out pretty quick."

"After that we've kept pretty much holed up, but it's a matter of attrition. We've only got about twenty in good shape, the rest of the men are in various shades of disabled. We've got plenty of food thanks to the buggers, but no matter how many we kill they never seem to be hurting for attackers." Daniels said with a slight shrug, he had let Luke and Sarah through and the two were going around the room trying to organize their healing efforts.

"What about the bulldog? And the crayons?" Drew asked, pointing at the Gunny's bandoleer of the drawing utensils.

"Bulldog is Chesty. His handler got a xatherite that turned him into what he is, unfortunately, the kid got himself killed a week in. Chesty went a bit wild, we feed him and he leaves us mostly alone, and I can't imagine how many more lizards there would be without him. As for crayons, it's a long story, but basically one of the privates had been given them by his brother. He got a xatherite that made the box never-ending and turned them into pretty deadly throwing devices." Daniels pulled a crayon out and handed it to Drew.

Drew put a finger on the crayon's tip and the yellow flare of his mana shield told him that it was sharp despite it's appearances. He poked it into the wall and it slid into the cinderblock easily. "Well damn. That's convenient."

"Looks stupid, sounds like a prank. But they've saved more lives than I care to count. They're our best ranged weapon currently." Daniels said pulling the crayon out of the wall and sliding it back into his bandoleer.

"If it ain't broke." Drew said with a shrug, glancing at the men, "It'll take a bit to get all your people back up. Sarah and Luke's xatherite have their limits. In the meantime, you still have those guns? JP here can refill the magazines."

"Actually Drew, I brought along sixty rifles too, figured the marines might need some firepower." JP said and he reached into his pouch and began unloading rifles onto a table. "Sorry, there won't be enough for everyone, couldn't fit more in."

Daniels blinked as Luke pulled a dozen rifles out of his belt pouch, then gave a single nod, "So, I'm pretty sure I finally died and this is some sort of dream."

"If this is your idea of dream, I'd hate to see your nightmares." Drew said looking around.

"Good point." Daniels said with a grin. The two got down to work, distributing weapons and organizing everyone into fire teams. The worst of the wounded weren't going to be able to be healed by just Sarah and Luke, and they set up groups to carry them. They discussed leaving some of the Marines here to act as a FoB for when they needed to delve deeper into the Navy Yard and the nodes there, but decided to just have Katie seal it off instead.

There was a back way in that they could use to get around having to sneak that many men past Chesty, which the Marines were all against killing. Drew watched the bulldog romp through the ruins for a while and wondered what had become of Zoey. Lincoln, his roommate had been home, and would have taken care of her. The only problem was that Lincoln was a bit of a space cadet and Drew wasn't sure he would be able to handle himself, let alone take care of Zoey as well.

Taking a moment to study the leylines around him he pondered the feasibility of heading to Pentagon City to check on Zoey and Lincoln. The newly named Institute node connected to a node to the north west, probably near L'Enfant Plaza somewhere. Then split off to the west in what was probably the Jefferson Memorial and then across the river was the Pentagon, his old apartment was a mile further down the freeway near the air force memorial. There appeared to be a number of nodes over there, probably on Fort Myer or in Arlington Cemetery. Either way, that opened up a route into much less dangerous locations.

Which meant it was probably one of the best places to head if they were looking for more survivors. The other direction being to the southeast into Maryland, Drew would have to find a map, because without GPS he had almost no knowledge of where anything was in Prince George's County. He vaguely recalled there being an air force base there. The problem with heading south east was that it took him away from the mass of nodes that made up DC proper.

Weighing the pros and cons of trying to take the Barracks node while he was here, he went looking for Daniels to see if they knew where the pyramid was.

"Guarantee you it's somewhere in the Commandant's house." The gunny said when Drew told him the rough location. "We're pretty sure that's where the lizard's come from and it's the most significant place over there."

"I imagine he probably had some sort of bunker or SCIF down in the basement of it. That seems to be the MO for the upper brass. It's probably in that." Drew mused, staring north. The node didn't directly connect with the stadium, it hooked into a few on the Yard and from there into the DoT node they had passed earlier and that node connected to the stadium. "It'll take a while for Sarah and Luke to heal everyone up, Katie can shore up your defenses and we can leave a few people here. But I think it would be a wasted opportunity not to take the node when we're so close."

Daniels nodded his head, "I'm sure I can get a bunch of volunteers to help you kill some lizards. We'll just have to get around Chesty."

"Well, I was thinking about going across the roof. We'll need to build a bridge, I suppose, but that shouldn't be too hard." Drew said looking out the window. The eastern half of the base was one long building, or at least several buildings that were all joined together. The most difficult part would be finding a safe route across the broken roof.

Katie built a bridge. They dumped a bunch of food out the window to distract Chesty and then Drew led ten Marines and his group across the roof until they dropped down into the Commandant's patio. Drew could feel waves of anger coming off the Marines as they traveled through the building. It had been desecrated by the lizardfolk they had been fighting the last few weeks. Drew got a chance to use his lightning bolt and acid arrow quite regularly as they systematically cleared the upper floors of the building and then descended.

The Marines, using their borrowed weapons, cleared the house with a ruthless efficiency. They found a flight of stairs leading down below ground level after dispatching several dozen lizardfolk. Each of the lizardfolk were green scaled with a wiry build that made Drew want to call them kobolds rather than lizardfolk, each only standing a few inches over five feet.

Drew did get to see just how lethal the crayons were, which seemed such a strange incongruity to his brain that he kept stopping to stare at those lizardfolk who died impaled on the colorful wax. Still, they moved further in, Daryl scouting ahead until they came to what must have at one point in time been a SCIF. It was the first place that the weird twisting of space that the system did with the nodes was evident. A metal door that was at least twenty feet tall sat ajar a few feet in front of them.

Visible through the door was a throne room, a few dozen lizardfolk arrayed in a defensive pattern around the raised dais that stood between them and the blue pyramid that was their goal. The room was clearly on high alert. Unfortunately for the lizardfolk, the vast open area and their own lack of ranged weapons would be their downfall. Drew cast a storm. The lizardfolk who escaped it's wrath ran to the other side of the large room, and were hit by firestorm. Their shrill cries of pain echoed along the hard surfaces of the basement.

Frost-firestorm came next, angled slightly to the left and closer to the door, designed to take out any that might be hiding on the eves. Holy frost-firestorm came next, on the right side, the howling wind had cut off any cries at this point. Only the raw destruction of Drew's elemental spells could be heard. The Marines next to him held a new sense of respect, his lightning bolts had impressed them, but this current display was on a different level. Grav storm took the center, giving them time to prepare to enter the room.

"Get ready to breach." Daniels spoke in a low tone, as he watched Drew who held up a hand up as he counted down the seconds until the spell's fury would be spent. When his last finger dropped Marines turned the corner and the quick staccato reports of gunfire rang out. But the Marines were just cleaning up the mess. The tough lizardfolk scales having held up remarkable well to the storms but nevertheless bloodied and broken.

As they entered the room the largest Lizardfolk they had seen pushed themselves to their feet on the far side of the room, one arm having been ripped off. Ten rifles, JP's pistols and three fireballs gave the King an inglorious death. "Well, I guess I know why they promoted you now." Daniels muttered as Drew walked calmly through the room, "Look for xatherite, I'll claim the node."

As another isolated node, his options hadn't improved. Drew altered the name of the base from PN-SN37 to Marine Barracks, installed the Remote Admin function but otherwise left the node alone. Exiting a the pyramid again in under 45 seconds.

"No xatherite." Katie told Drew as he exited. The Marines led them back to the barracks where Luke, Sarah and Drew got back to work healing the rest of those nearest to recovery and making sure that those they were transporting were stable.

A note from dm xanadu

Thanks for reading. You can contact me on my patreon, the rooland discordmy facebook, or by leaving comments here. You can also vote for Red Mage on Top Webfiction.

Drew's Xatherite Map
Katie's Xatherite Map
Sarah's Xatherite Map
Daryl's Xatherite Map
JP's Xatherite Map
Robbi's Xatherite Map (RIP)
Luke's Xatherite Map

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dm xanadu


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